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ESPN predicts who will finish the season at No. 1, and it isn’t Alabama |

ESPN predicts who will finish the season at No. 1, and it isn’t Alabama
ESPN predicts who will finish the season at No. 1, and it isn’t Alabama Thu, 12 Oct 2017 10:37:20 EDT

The race to finish the season as the top team in the country is very much on for a few programs right now. That includes undefeated teams like Alabama, Clemson, Penn State, Georgia, Washington, TCU and Wisconsin. However, ESPN believes they know who will deserve to be ranked as the top team by the time it’s all said and done.

Alabama will be the most dominant team in college football but not the most deserving of No. 1. That will be Clemson, which will earn its No. 1 seed with wins over ranked opponents Auburn, Louisville, Virginia Tech and, eventually, NC State and whichever team reaches the ACC title game.

Looking back, it was easy to roll your eyes at Dabo Swinney when he told anyone who would listen this offseason that losing Deshaun Watson wouldn't be the death of the program. He kept pointing to his depth on the offensive line and how much he had returning on defense. Still, we didn't listen.

Well, now we know. Kelly Bryant might not be the next Watson, but he'll certainly do the trick. And that defensive line is the stuff nightmares are made of. Austin Bryant leads the team with 5.0 sacks, but the Tigers have spread the wealth with 12 different players with at least one full sack this season, the most in the ACC and second-most in FBS.

In a repeat of last season, Clemson will get matched up with Ohio State in the playoff semifinal game and move on to the national title game against Alabama.

Of course, Paul Finebaum believes the Tigers will take a loss at some point this season and won’t even get into the College Football Playoff. Assuming they get by Syracuse on Friday — never underestimate a game earlier in the week — and can beat N.C. State then they are pretty much home free until the ACC Championship Game. They still have Georgia Tech and rival South Carolina on their slate, but those are very winnable games and they should be heavily favored in those games.

[h/t The Spun]